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Reporting to the Court. Two main purposes:To help the court to decide if there are grounds for making an order To help the Court to decide what action, if any, should be taken . Reporting to the Court. May seem like a chore BUT:Can get everything down (less risk of forgetting something or missing

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effective court reports

Effective Court Reports

Patrick Ayre

Department of Applied Social Studies

University of Luton

reporting to the court
Reporting to the Court

Two main purposes:

  • To help the court to decide if there are grounds for making an order
  • To help the Court to decide what action, if any, should be taken
reporting to the court3
Reporting to the Court

May seem like a chore BUT:

  • Can get everything down (less risk of forgetting something or missing it out)
  • You can check the information and make sure it is accurate.
  • You can spend time thinking about how you express things
  • The Court and the other parties will read in advance, so may have less time in the witness box:
    • Should only be asked about disputed parts of the statement
    • The other side may not need to ask questions or may even fold!
statements must
Statements must
  • Be signed and dated
  • Include a prescribed formal declaration
  • Have various case related details in the top right hand corner of the first page.

Theoretically, anything which meets these requirements is OK. However…

selling you opinion
Selling you opinion
  • Presentation
  • Content
  • Make it pretty and easy to read
    • Neat
    • Double spaced
    • One side only
    • Numbered paragraphs and pages
  • Good grammar
  • Good sentence construction
  • Simple sentences
  • No unnecessary, unexplained jargon
  • Appropriate tone (formal so no slang, no contractions, no use of first names for adults)
  • Sensitively phased (but not watered down)
content problems
Content problems
  • Incomplete
  • Biased
  • Conclusions and recommendations poorly argued and justified (or absent altogether)
what do they want to know
What do they want to know?
  • Who you are
  • Why you are reporting
  • The facts of the case
  • The conclusions to be drawn from the facts
  • Qualifications & current employment
  • Experience and expertise
  • How long involved with family and capacity
  • Purpose of statement (‘in support of application for’...)
  • Sources of information from which the report is compiled
the facts
The facts
  • Family composition (attach a genogram)
  • Background history (family and individual)
  • Recent events (including the results of any assessment undertaken during the case)
the facts13
The facts
  • Tell the story chronologically without too much editorialising
  • Facts sufficient to satisfy the threshold criteria or to justify the recommendations made (and also to refute counter arguments)
  • First hand evidence is best but give source of any information (Can include hearsay)
  • Where facts are disputed either omit or say so
  • Make sure that you have put information as fully and accurately as possible (Checklist: Who, what, when, where, how)
bias and balance
Bias and Balance
  • Include information favourable to the other side as well as that favourable to yours
  • It is your job to make judgements but:
    • avoid empty evaluative words like inappropriate, worrying, inadequate
    • Give evidence for descriptive words like cold, dirty and untidy
  • Beware the danger of facts
bias and balance15
Bias and Balance

Born in 1942, he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment at the age of 25. After 5 unsuccessful fights, he gave up his attempt to make a career in boxing in 1981 and has since had no other regular employment

conclusions and recommendations
Conclusions and recommendations


  • Unsupported assertions or judgements
  • Inability or unwillingness to analyse and draw conclusions
conclusions and recommendations17
Conclusions and recommendations
  • Summarise the main issues and the conclusions to be drawn from them. (The facts do not necessarily speak for themselves; it is your job to speak for them.)
  • Draw conclusions from the facts and recommendations from the conclusions
  • Explain how you arrived at your conclusions (Have you demonstrated the factual/theoretical basis for each?)
conclusions and recommendations18
Conclusions and recommendations

In particular:

  • Why the Court should not apply the ‘no order’ principle. (Don’t take this for granted.)
  • Application of the welfare checklist to this case (A very useful framework, but do not rely on this to summarise all your evidence)
  • Consideration of the range of powers open to the Court. Assess each relevant option in turn.
  • Discuss and argue the conclusions reached by other parties.
  • Accompanied by a care plan if care order is being sought (including an interim)
conclusions and recommendations19
Conclusions and recommendations
  • In drawing conclusions be aware of the extent and limitations of your own expertise.
  • Conclusions may be supported by research (Don’t go outside expertise; be careful with new or controversial theories; be aware of counter arguments)
  • In a final report, the recommendation MUST be specific (not either/or)
  • Remember: conclusions may be attacked in only two ways
    • founded on incorrect information
    • based on incorrect principles of social work